Rockets want Lionel Hollins as assistant coach

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Kevin McHale is entering the final year of his contract with the Rockets, and general manager Daryl Morey has said he doesn’t believe lame-duck status matters.

Morey is really testing that theory.

Marc Stein of ESPN

McHale has improved in Houston, and I’d say he’s a pretty good coach.

But I believe Hollins is a better coach, and this would absolutely threaten McHale’s job – even if nobody enters the arrangement with that intention.

Hollins has previously rejected opportunities to be an assistant coach, and he interviewed this offseason with the Cavaliers and Lakers – the last two teams with openings – to become a head coach. Even though the Cavaliers appear headed in a different direction, the Lakers might still make sense if for no other reason than their search is extremely confusing.

So, there’s reason for Hollins to wait.

However, if the Lakers choose someone else, Houston could intrigue Hollins.

I can’t imagine a better place for Hollins to repair his images after disputes with the Grizzlies’ analytically inclined front office led to his ouster in Memphis. Hollins is an excellent coach who relates well to his players and has a proven record of success on defense. it’s a shame one flaw – Hollins should become more accepting of statistics, because they really don’t interfere with his coaching principles – has kept him out of the game for a year and counting.

Morey’s Rockets also heavily rely on analytics to inform their decisions, so if Hollins succeeds with them, that would say a lot about his ability to adapt. Every front-office in the NBA uses analytics to some degree, and it would be difficult to employee a coach who can’t at least work within an organization that values statistics.

If you’re wondering why Morey would want Hollins, the Houston general manager is more open-minded than he gets credit for. McHale is definitely not predisposed to using analytics, but he and Morey have complemented each other relative well.

Hollins could help upgrade Houston’s 12th-ranked defense, which allows the most points per possession in the playoffs. If he does, he’d definitely be in line to become a head coach next offseason.

In many ways, this is just Morey taking the analytical approach in building a coaching staff. The market is flooded with good coaching candidates – there’s no excuse for hiring a lackluster, either in potential or current ability, head coach this offseason – and that leaves a surplus, which includes Hollins. Most years, Hollins would have already been hired as a head coach elsewhere.

Hollins and Houston would be an interesting pairing, no doubt. If it works, the Rockets could improve enough defensively to win their first playoff series and six years and Hollins could position himself to become a head coach somewhere the following season.

Maybe even in Houston.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.

Kevin Love throws full court pass to LeBron James for sweet and-1 bucket (VIDEO)

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Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.

Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.

The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.

Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.